Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
While the Knicks missed Kidd's passing and 3-point shooting against the Nets, there's more to the story than his DNP, looking at the Knicks' recent 1-3 stretch. Overall, their pick-and-roll game has taken a backseat, and it got worse on Monday night.
Raymond Felton's playmaking wasn't cutting it against the Nets' No. 2-ranked defense. In fact, Mike Woodson had to call for double screens from Tyson Chandler and Rasheed Wallace just to give Felton more breathing room. But little penetration came from it; not to mention, his shooting was way off (3-for-19). In fact, the Knicks' points per play in pick-and-rolls have sunk from 0.85 in their first nine games to 0.68 in their last four.
Because of their faulty pick-and-rolls, the Knicks have been running less of them, and even post-ups. Not good. Instead, they've been relying more on 3-pointers, and they lead the league in makes (11.7) and attempts (28.5) per game. They're also turning to Anthony and Smith a higher amount in isolation, which has actually been a bit of an alarming trend in their recent 1-3 stretch, looking like the team of old. Melo's frequency of isolations has increased from 25.3 percent of the time in the team's first nine games to 35.0 percent in their last four.
Fortunately for the Knicks, Anthony has been converting at a high rate in isolation. While he's shooting 41.3 percent on assisted shots, he's at a whopping 58.7 percent on unassisted ones. But if the isolations continue, will Melo be ready for the extra pressure?
The Knicks' loss to the Nets forecast that opponents are going to look to wear Anthony down by throwing multiple bodies at him early in games. Not only did he only score four points in the first quarter on Monday night, but the fatigue from trying to get open, which Woodson alluded to after the game, forced him to shoot 2-for-8 to close the contest.
Anthony will need to operate better in isolations and post-ups when he knows double teams are coming at him. Several times against the Nets, he caught the ball higher up in the midrange area, and right when the double came, he passed it back out to the top of the key, keeping the ball more on one side of the court and delaying ball rotation. He needs to sometimes focus on getting deeper position, as well as utilizing the skip pass more to disrupt the defense.
Anthony's in great shape now, and Woodson wants to keep him around 35 minutes per game. But in order for that to happen, the Knicks need to pick up their pick-and-roll play -- and, oh yes, Kidd needs to return.
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